74-year old woman released from prison after 32 years for murder she didn’t commit

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Mary Virginia Jones (right) reunites with her daughter

— Thanks to a couple of law students

Los Angeles, CA — A LA county judge has ruled that 74-year-old Mary Virginia Jones, who served 32 years for a murder committed by her abusive boyfriend, will be released from prison. In 1981, she was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murder, kidnapping and robbery in a fatal shooting.

But apparently it was Mose Willis, her boyfriend, who kidnapped two men and ordered Jones at gunpoint to drive a car to a back alley in Los Angeles, where Willis shot the men.

Before the incident, Jones was a churchgoing woman who worked as a teacher’s aide and had never been arrested before. When she met Willis, he was homeless, and she took him in because he told her that he wanted to clean up his life.

So how did she overturn her conviction? Reportedly, some law students at the University of Southern California’s Post-Conviction Justice Project challenged her case, claiming she would not have been convicted if the jury had heard expert testimony about the impact of intimate partner battering, (formerly known as battered women’s syndrome).

After reviewing the case, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office agreed to set aside her convictions if she agreed to plead no contest to voluntary manslaughter. And so she did just that.

She told the judge, “I did not willingly participate in this crime, but I believe entering a no contest plea is in my best interest.”

And so with credit for the time that she already served, Jones was ordered released from prison and her family and supporters joyfully celebrated when the announcement was made. Her children say they’re just looking forward to sitting down at the dinner table with their mother for the first time in more than three decades.

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